Fossil of ‘earliest predator’ named after David Attenborough

Scientists say Auroralumina attenboroughii is the earliest creature known to have a skeleton.

LONDON, UK – A fossil of a 560-million-year-old creature thought to be rresearchers believe being the first predator was named after British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough.

Scientists said Monday they believe the specimen, named Auroralumina attenboroughii, is the earliest creature known to have a skeleton. It’s related to the group that includes corals, jellyfish, and anemones, they say.

“It is widely believed that modern animal groups such as jellyfish appeared in the Cambrian explosion 540 million years ago,” said Phil Wilby, paleontologist at the British Geological Survey. “But this predator is 20 million years older.”

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He said it was “hugely exciting” to know that the fossil was one of potentially many that hold the key to “when complex life began on Earth.”

The fossil was found in Charnwood Forest, near Leicester in central England, where Attenborough used to go fossil hunting.

The 96-year-old said he was “really excited”.

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Frankie Dunn of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History said the specimen is very different from other fossils found in Charnwood Forest and around the world.

Dunn said that unlike most other Cambrian-era fossils, “this one clearly has a skeleton with tightly packed tentacles that would have tumbled about in the water to catch passing food, much like corals and sea anemones do today.”

The first part of the creature’s name is Latin for morning lantern, in recognition of its great age and resemblance to a flaming torch.

The Cambrian Explosion, which took place about 541 million to 530 million years ago, was an evolutionary burst that brought about the emergence of a huge variety of animals. Many of the creatures developed hard body parts such as calcium carbonate shells during this time.

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Laura Coffey

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